Tuesday, July 14, 2020

My Herbs of 2020

I keep trying to grow herbs. I have them indoors, outdoors, at the lake, in the city and even at work in the Personal Care Home. I love how beautiful and fragrant they are and, potentially, how useful as an ingredient when cooking.  I believe that many herbs have great healing properties and can be very nutritious and good for you, but that is not something I have ever studied. I do know that the act of growing and nurturing the plants is fun and also good for you.  It gives me joy just to play in the soil, handle the plants, look at the lovely flowers and leaves and smell all the different fragrances!

I really would love to have many kinds of herbs growing in the ground and coming back year after year, but I only have a couple. The light is not great or the area doggie free in most of my spaces, so I like to make good use of container planting. This year I have a couple of pots growing on my patio at home and they are so lovely and fragrant! Two of my coworkers are growing indoor herbs at work as a program with the seniors, so it is one of my big topics of the summer. I have herbs everywhere!

The pot below is my mixed one. It has some sage, sweet marjoram, and new to me,  two kinds of licorice plants.  I have seen and tasted wild licorice a few times but I have never grown any.

The next picture is a pot full of different kinds of basil. I had excellent success with basil two years ago so, this time, I thought I would get creative. This pot has Italian Large Leave Basil shown at the front. That is what I have grown before, and it was easy to grow and yummy. The one with the purple flowers is called Cinnamon Basil, and the one with the white flowers is called Spicy Globe Basil. It was flowering when we got it. It would probably do best if we trimmed off the flowers and encouraged leaf growth, but I am just loving the look of it and haven't talked myself into pruning it yet.

The most successful herb for us has been a mint patch that has been located outside our back door for over a decade. At one point, it got really huge, but with time, it has shrunk down and gotten spindly. Trees have grown much taller around it reducing the light and I am sure the soil got depleted. It has been banged around with its location beside the door and even abused a little by our dog who is very fond of sniffing it. This year we cleaned up that area by that side of the house and added sod but we still left a little square for the mint. We worked in some compost and it seems to have perked up to a reasonable size for our use, and big enough to share slips with a few friends. I warn everyone that it can spread like crazy, and you should put a collar or barrier into the ground around it in order to keep it where you want it and out of the rest of your yard.

We keep trying out different herbs at the cottage and we have real issues with rodents and birds eating them and some that we have put in the ground simple have not overwintered well.  I usually have a pot of parsley inside on the window by the kitchen sink and make good use of it and our little raised bed garden has a big patch of chives growing. I love how gorgeous the chives look with their pretty purple flowers and how they provide us with a great ingredient for cooking and salads all summer long. They also act as a good companion plant by acting as a deterrent and keep away some bugs and critters from the raised beds.

I really like telling jokes so here are a few for you.
 ..Not necessarily hilarious ones, but it is still all part of the fun!

A girl told me that she recognized me from the local vegetarian club, but I’d never met herbivore.
I’ve got a device to fetch futuristic herbs. It’s a thyme machine.

I saw a new book about cooking with herbs. It’s about Thyme.
I was going to send back my fish in a herb sauce at a restaurant the other night, but I wasn’t sure if it was the thyme or the plaice. (Hint: Plaice is a kind of flatfish)
I know someone who was habitually late until his doctor recommended sleeping in a herb garden. Sounds odd, I know, but now he wakes up on Thyme.
I used to work with a very wise herb gardener. He was well known for his sage advice.
Thought I’d purchase a tall herb plant but actually turned out to be tiny. No big dill 

I like to put coriander on my blended tomatoes. It’s "soup herb".

I went to a restaurant the other night and asked for something herby. They gave me an old Volkswagen Beetle with no driver.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Happy Thoughts Journal

Have you ever kept a diary?

I kept one when I was young, like so many other kids. It was filled with notes about where I was going and an inordinate number of entries that included excuses about why I failed to practice piano that day.😊   I have also kept a lot of scrapbooks and photo albums and art journals. I love photography, and I try to put labels by my images to explain what the pictures are about.  

Loving my journals
At one point, I discovered something called Smash Book journals. The idea behind those was to gather up bits of memorabilia, glue them down on the decorative pages of the book, make notations, and add the odd accessory. It was great for me because I had all sorts of things, like cards that I saved because I feel good about them and they did not need to be in any kind of chronological order. Most of the items didn't have to have an explanation unless I felt like adding a special note. When I pick up one of my journals, it is just so much fun to look at. Occasionally the memories contained are bittersweet, but they are also empowering, joyful and full of happy thoughts. You don't need to have a specific journal brand, but you should find some kind of book that is sturdy, and easy to carry and use. It can even be a binder with cardstock pages in it. It should also make you happy just to look at it.  I picked up my current notebook at Dollarama. It is very pink. I find the cover words to be rather encouraging, and I find it handy to clip a pen inside the spiral binding.

I like to add quotes, pictures and cut-outs on bulletin boards and into binders and to the covers of my notebooks. Usually, they are meaningful, and they can be very grounding to me, but sometimes they are just for being cute. I tend to change some things around with the seasons. Right now, I have a lot of pics that include flowers and lakes and not too many snowmen!  I thought my inside cover choice of the sweet picture of the birds' nest and quote to be very appropriate and encouraging during our "Sheltering in Place." He will cover you with His feathers and under His wings you will find refuge. Psalm 91:4

Create Your Own Ideas notebook
... and in His wings, you will find refuge.

Journal entry about Charity event hosted by my college TR Class

Journal entry about my first and last month of college.

I have recently had a few people tell me how hard it is to stay positive through the stresses of the past few months.  They see so much negativity. The isolation and restrictions have been going on for so long that I see people giving in to a sense of hopelessness and feelings of depressions. At first, people believed, "I can do this for a month- it will be like a vacation!". Time is going by, and now our communities are pushing hard to reopen and people want to get their jobs back and their income secure, and even get haircuts and all the other signs that life is normal. We need our friends and family, and it is so difficult to always be at arm's length from the people you care about. It is hard to keep distracted.

One of my friends said she feels like she is just going through the motions. She is just barely getting through the day. Another friend was just about in tears telling me that something good happened to her that day and said she was going to hold onto the memory. We need to make a point of being aware of those good things. We need to try and find some balance.  One popular approach is gratitude journals, where each day you write down something you are grateful for. The internet is full of lists with prompt questions to help you come up with ideas. The idea is that as you make an effort to identify those positive aspects and events in your life, you will start to notice them more frequently and perhaps find a sense of optimism and enthusiasm.

If you like the idea of a gratitude journal, memory keeping, photo-albums, scrapbooking, dream boards/vision boards, diary or my version of happy thought journals, you should just go with it. Online options, such as creating blog posts or Pinterest boards, count too! 

Maybe you want to just focus on a particular topic that brings you joy. How about a gardening journal., a birdwatching notebook, places you want to travel to, favourite books notebook. You could create your own cookbook with pictures of your yummy creations!

When we become overwhelmed, it can be hard to focus on the details of our lives, or perhaps we concentrate predominantly on certain aspects of our life, and those might be the sad and negative things that are happening around us. When we constantly watch sad news and are surrounded by so many other people who are also struggling, this sense of despair is reinforced. If we only look at the negative, we start to have trouble problem solving and moving forward in a healthy way. So my question is, how do we each manage to find optimism in a time such as this?  How do we find a realistic balance between the sad and happy things we experience in life?

I suggested to the friend who shared her good experience that she take the time to write it down and then see how many more good memories she could add to it. I sure hope that she will experience lots of positive experiences to remember and add to her list.  I hope you do too. 

I sure would love to hear how you like to collect and/or share your memories.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Why Do We Celebrate?

I want to wish everyone in Canada and the USA

 a very happy and safe holiday celebration this week! 

I am going to the lake for two days of relaxing and then for Canada Day, this Wednesday, I will be at work from noon to 8 pm. We are having a little Canada Day party in the afternoon. Providing programs and celebrations at a personal care home is extremely challenging right now during this time of quarantine, social distancing, and so many other changes and worries. We are trying to gather people in very small groups, and then we try and position people with some distance between them.

Previously our Canada Day Parties at the personal care home have been huge outdoor events for residents and families complete with a hired musician, food, and decorations and lots of FUN. We always had a huge turnout. This year - What to do? We are setting up the patio and decorating in Red and White, but we are handling it like a mini “come and go” open house style event for the residents so that we only have a few people gathered at a time. It is a significant change and challenges our creativity.

This year our usual ways of celebrating have been so overwhelmingly disrupted.  We all want our social contacts to return to what it was before the pandemic, but in the meantime, we still want to share our lives with each other in some way. 

What I am impressed with is how resilient people have been. We are, indeed, finding new ways to celebrate and mark special events. My niece’s husband secretly contacted her Facebook friends and arranged for everyone to drive past and honk. He even surprised her by decorated their front yard.  She was thrilled with this new version of a birthday celebration.  I was pleased to discover that I could attend live-streamed service from my local church this past Easter from my own home.

We are communicating with others and having events on Skype, Zoom or Facetime. People from all over the world are participating in activities in new ways. Some times these changes have been very positive.

I love celebrations!

 I even love those days when unusual celebrations occur and sometimes I try and incorporate them into my home life and into my work life at the personal care home. Just to give one random example- Did you know that today, June 29th, is the International Day of the Tropics, which is sponsored by the United Nations? It is kind of the perfect day to buy a tropical plant, have a sweet beachy drink. Click to learn a bit about the fascinating biodiversity of the tropics. Why do we set up these differnt kinds of events and what is the point of it?


What do we celebrate?

We celebrate or commemorate the important markers of our lives. We celebrate our birthdays and commemorate the passing of loved ones. We remember anniversaries. There are special feelings of pride and acknowledgment of your capibilites on the day you get your driver’s licence on the day you graduate from school or when you get that longed-for job or be a winner in that major sports competition.

We celebrate the community acknowledgment of Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Mother’s Day, Fathers Day and many other days with big events or family gatherings.  We sometimes do a lot of consumer purchasing to get the right dΓ©cor, clothing and treats and even cards to share. 

Each culture has its unique occasions and ways that they celebrate these days.  It might be hoisting a beer stein for Oktoberfest, or it might be watching a dragon dance for Chinese New Year.  These celebrations reflect the history, culture and beliefs and geography of a place and a people. It is a way that a group defines itself and binds itself together as a group. It is a way to remember the past traditions of their people and to teach its youth to be proud of their heritage and to continue it into the future.

These special days and moments are centred around universal human experiences. We all experience loss, sadness, fear, accomplishment, and we all look for love, peace, joy, and success. When we act to notice and mark these events and moments, we find meaning in what is happening to us. The sorrowful and the joyful can be shared and let us gain validation for what has happened and our feelings about it. As a group, we can offer each other solace in difficult times, and we can provide practical support too. We can even create a force for change by acknowledging the importance of what has happened.

Back to why do we celebrate?

We have fun and excitement, and we make special memories

What is life without a little joy and laughter? Human being’s health and well being are dependent on having a bit of fun and expressing ourselves.

We bond with others and become part of a broader community.

People need a community and a sense of culture and identity. We need to have the physical support of others, but we also need to have people to share in who we are and have things in common with us. 

We discover more about our own identity and learn what is important to us.

When you celebrate a rite of passage, it can change who you are and in a very real way how you see yourself.   My granddaughter just graduated from grade 6 this past week. She was a little kid and a member of her old school. When she returns to school next term, it will be a new school. It will no longer be the elementary school where she played during recess. It will be a junior high with new expectations, and there will be new social and extracurricular groups for her. Retirement is a big change too. We often describe ourselves by our jobs and our workplace. After you celebrate your retirement, you will redefine who you are and look at new possibilities.

It reflects our growth as people and our changing lives.

Our personal journey is marked by baby showers, births, baptisms, weddings, educational completion and all those other life events. Eventually, there will come the time of our death and commemoration of who we were and of our beliefs.  

Through our lives, we define what kind of person we are, we look at our roles in our communities and families, and where we belong and where we can make a difference. Our special days and events let us mark and confirm what these events mean to us as individuals and as a society.

Lets make this Summer's celebrations fun, thoughtful and meaningful despite the challenges we are facing in our world today.

Have a wonderful Canada Day and a fantastic Fourth of July.

Make some great memories!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Do you Drink Enough Fluids? Make it Fun!

Taking Care of Yourself Sundays

It is starting to get hot up here in Manitoba, and I need to remember to drink more water or other non-caffeinated beverages. Many recreation departments for sports, seniors group and kids' events have instituted "Hydration breaks" as part of their programs.  It is especially important if you are outside in the heat or exerting yourself. 

Now, why do you want to make a point of drinking water? People don't always seem aware of being dehydrated, and we as a species need water to keep our bodies operating optimally. Sometimes things like headaches and exhaustion, muscle cramps, kidney stones, constipation, dry skin and a host of other issues can be helped by simply drinking more frequently. 

The old adage was that you should have about 8 cups of water a day. For most people, this is a good starting point, but realistically a bigger person will need more fluids than a smaller person and an active person more than someone who is sedentary. It is not a one size fits all kind of suggestion.  I suggest taking a look at how much you are drinking right now and then try adding more each day and seeing how you feel with each increase.

Does it need to be water? I think water is best, but certainly, you should look at what you will actually choose to drink and feel happy about and therefore actually drink enough. Certain beverages might have additional benefits. Think of all the vitamins and goodness in a glass of orange juice! If you are very active you might want an electrolyte added drink like a sports drink. In Canada, our milk is fortified with vitamin D, which is very important since we spend our cold winters never getting enough sunshine to produce vitamin D naturally. There are many kinds of teas that are beneficial and delicious.  I love some of the fruity natural teas and my daughter, Alicia,  loves trying different teas all the time. You will want to watch how much caffeine and other ingredients are in your beverages. Sometimes the ingredients and amounts can surprise you, so always read the labels. 

Now, what can we do to make drinking enough fluids a nice experience?

A few weeks ago I sat down beside an elderly lady while she ate her lunch. I commented on how the staff know to bring her a glass to tomato juice with each meal and how she must really like tomato juice. I told her that I like it too but rarely have any. She asked me, "Why on Earth don't you drink it if you like it."?  I was a bit flustered and answered that I was the only one in the family that liked it, so I rarely bought it. She stared at me said that was not a good enough reason.  I fumbled that I would never use up the whole can and would be pouring some of it down the drain when it went bad. She told me in no uncertain terms that tomato juice does come in small cans and that I should go to the store. Yup, I did what I was told and got myself a pack of small tomato juice cans! 

This lovely lady really pointed out to me that I was just making excuses. If I know something is good for me: if  I know it is something I want, why was I putting up barriers instead of finding solutions?

What will make drinking your water or other healthy beverages easier for you?

The trick with any new habit is making it more convenient or more memorable and more appealing and fun. Here are some suggestions.
  • Try filling a water pitcher in the fridge with the water you want to drink for the day and then you don't need to measure every cup 
  • Get yourself a nice water bottle to carry around with you. They are easy to pack and avoid spills.
  • Use nice glasses or cups that make you happy. Dig out a favourite cup that is cute or perhaps has a favourite saying on it.  How about a vintage teacup and saucer. I like drinking water out of an old cut glass piece. My friend likes using a canning jar.
  • Icecubes can make a drink cooler and lovely to drink on a hot day. The temperature of a beverage can affect tastes too.
  • Icecube trays come in fancy shapes that add to the fun. Your ice cubes can be frozen juice cubes that will flavour your water and add a touch of colour.
  • Add some frozen fruit pieces or add lemon slices to perk up your beverage. I love raspberries floating in my water!
  • .I am not beyond adding a decorative slice of fruit or a little paper umbrella like you see on fancy cocktails. Why not?
  • If your local water has a taste you don't like, consider getting a filtering system like a Brita or one the many others out there. Bottled water has its place, but please be aware of our environment when making purchases..

                       Wishing you a peaceful and healthy life!

Friday, June 12, 2020

My Cute Rock Garden

I want to introduce my little plant friends. Curly, Larry and Moe. They don't care if I water them or not, how good the light is or if the temperature drops below freezing!  We have had very inconsistent weather around here, and last night, we had a couple little, late-planted sprouts freeze to death. It can get kind of discouraging. I thought it would be fun to share this little project today.  That real Aloe plant was safely in my bedroom window last night and just went outside to photobomb the little guys.

The pots I used were just cheap plastic mini pots that we had kicking around in my garage, but it would have been really nice with those tiny terracotta pots that are available at the dollar store. 
  •  3 pots
  • 3 rocks that can fit in each pot snugly
  • 3 shades of green acrylic paint 
  • white acrylic paint
  • average size paintbrush
  • fine tip paintbrush 
  • filler for the bottom. I used white play clay from a dollar store.
  • sand or small stones or aquarium gravel 
  • Googly eyes
  • craft glue
  •  mod podge (optional)

I washed and dried the rocks carefully. Next, I set them up on some newspapers and gave them a coat pf green paint with the bigger brush. It was good with just one coat. I went over the rocks once they base coat dried with the white acrylic paint to create different styles of marks with the small brush. My intention was to suggest they were assorted types of cactus.  When they were fully dry. I attached their eyes and promptly started laughing at them because I thought they were so cute. In a while, I decided that they really did need a glossy finish. I was a bit sloppy and wished later that I had been more careful beside the eyes because I required some very gentle clean up on the plastic eyes.  

I tried to just balance them in the pots initially and decided they needed a little more secure of a resting spot. I added a bit of play clay in the bottom to stabilize them and raise them up a little higher in their pots. The plastic pots have a drainage hole on the bottom so I didn't try sand.  Since I have put stones around my aloe plants I thought these little guys needed a finishing topping of stones as well. I had a small bag of leftover aquarium gravel for that little finishing touch. 

This project would be appropriate for all ages and skills. You can get a lot more detailed painting each cactus if you are up for a challenge or just leave them a  solid colour for an extra easy craft.  Bigger rocks in bigger pots would be a fun accent to an outdoor garden, but you would want to seal them with something more weather resistant than craft strength mod podge.
I might use these as a craft program at the personal care home some time. Wouldn't they make cute centrepieces for a Western event or a Cinco De Mayo party?

Cute as can be Curly

Meet Moe

Lovely Larry

The Whole Gang.

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